March 22, 2010
While in Sydney we met James Freeman, the organiser of the inaugural and brilliantly titled Shitbox Rally.
James came up with the idea to raise money for a cancer charity after he lost both his parents to the disease within a few months of each other just last year.
The idea is that competitors have to buy a ‘shitbox’ car, spending less than $1,000 in total, before driving it from Sydney to Alice Springs in the red centre.
They must also raise more than $3,000 to enter and when, or if, they get to Alice, the vehicles are auctioned off to raise more cash, if anyone is generous – or foolish – enough to buy them.
When we met him, James’s phone was running red hot but he took the time to explain how he’d come up with the idea.
“I just started calling it the shitbox, as that’s what the cars were – shitboxes. Then I sat down and tried to come up with a name that would describe what it was all about, and realised that the Shitbox Rally said it all, so that was it.”
He said it wasn’t really a rally.
“It’s not a race as such. We’ll all be traveling in convoy really and if anyone breaks down or gets bogged, we’ll all help each other out. We’ve got a few challenges on the way, but really it’s going to be more about the fun and meeting people and having a good time.”
Jamie said there were around 20 teams entered, a response which had amazed him.
“We’ve already had more than 200 people wanting to join in next year’s race, but we wanted to keep this one manageable for this year to see how it goes, but all being well’ next year the Shitbox will be full-on.”
Early next morning – 6.30am to be precise, Mr Hill took great sadistic pleasure in getting Matt and I up to go down to Centennial Park to meet the lunatics ready to drive across the desert in their clapped out old bangers.
It was worth the Herculean effort, as we met as bizarre and amusing a bunch of eccentrics as you’d find outside of the funny farm
There were a bunch of lads with their mum’s 25-year-old runabout, painted up to look like one of the3 interceptor cars in the Mad Max movies, with the guys also in costume and character.
One of them said: “It’s not about the car, it’s all about looking cool and getting the chicks.”
As he was saying this, two Penelope Pitstops from the old TV cartoon show, the Wacky Races, complete with pink dresses, white helmets, goggles and boots turned up, and the boys made a beeline to intercept them.
Another two girls had customised their banger to look like a ladybird, while a couple in ‘Shitty-Shitty-Bang-Bang’ had gone for the 80s disco bling look, complete with gold and black tracksuits, medallions and headbands.
After – what else – a barbie breakfast, the entrants posed for a group photo before climbing into their modified wrecks and headed for Alice Springs, promising to keep in touch and let us know how they got on – those poor deluded fools.
Meanwhile, us poor deluded fools headed back for breakfast and another hour in bed, as we had stayed up a bit too late taking in the nightlife of the Rocks which is Sydney’s answer to Temple Bar in Dublin – crammed full of pubs and people.
Our afternoon was taken up with a tour of Circular Quay, Sydney’s main ferry terminal, which has the Harbour Bridge on one side and the Opera House on the other, with a constant flotilla of ferries and jet boats and other tourists attractions constantly plying back and forward – sort of like a maritime Heathrow.
I suggested we get out on the water and take a return ticket trip around the harbour to get a sea-level view of the city. It’s a great way to understand just how the city works and how vital the harbour is to both commerce and pleasure and has the added bonus of fresh air and is always a couple of degrees cooler.
The guys agreed and we had a pleasant afternoon seing all the sights from the water. A crowd of schoolboys from a college in Melbourne on a school trip around the country, joined us for part of the voyage.
Their day was made when an attractive young woman sitting on the prow of a passing speedboat lifted her top and flashed them, causing much hilarity.
After all that All of us were banjaxed, and with Mr Hill nodding off in his chair after dinner, it wasn’t long before we headed for Matilda, where as the designated driver, I crunched her unfamiliar gears all the way home, before backing into a telegraph pole outside the hostel – well, it was dark. No damage done, at least none we can see.